Ulyana

Ulyana is a tiny and charming girl with a heart flaw. She is in the hospital every two months.
When she was one, she slept in cellars, dropped to the ground at any sound, and already know that “Hail” and “Hurricane” are not merely “weather problems.” And as any other child from Lugansk, Pervomaysk, or Donetsk, she’s still terrified of any loud noise. Their building was hit many times but their apartment miraculously was untouched.
Across the street, there was a huge construction materials store, Epitsentr. It’s no longer there, nothing was left after 2014. There was a fire station next to it which was deliberately targeted, like other infrastructure sites which were the first to be taken out.

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“Lone Grandmas”

There are great many single grandmothers on the Donbass. One doesn’t want to moralize here, you can do that without me. But it’s a fact–there are many women with children, including with multiple children, abandoned by husbands. And yes, unfortunately, many of these “dads” vanished right in 2014 during the fighting. Of course, these men have their own “truth” which, to be honest, I’m not interested in. They left to get work and then bring family along, but vanished along the way. Or there were disagreements, or he fell in love with someone else.
But there’s also a separate category of women who raise women on their own–grandmothers. Usually they are the parents of fathers or mothers who were raising their own kids, but left this world. So these grandmothers, many of whom are disabled, are left raising their grandchildren. Many of them can’t work anymore, but the kids have to be fed and clothed. That’s how it is.
There are many like that among the people we care for. There’s nobody else to help them. And it’s sad when you see elderly people with very young kids.
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Girl-Hero

Perhaps I’ll tell you about some heroes?
For example, Katya.
She, her two brothers, and a sister with parents are from Voluyskoye, a village currently occupied by the Ukrainian military. During the 2014 offensive their house was destroyed, they survived by a miracle and ran to Russia, to a village near Nizhnyy Novgorod. They found a place there and in general their life returned to normal. The father got a job. Children were studying. But in 2017, at night, their house caught fire due to bad wiring.
It was a miracle Katya woke up. She herself dragged everyone out of the house, they were already unconscious.
She saved five people! This girl here, too embarrassed to look into the camera and pose.

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Back to School!

It’s still summer, but the fall will be upon us soon, which means not only yellow leaves but also school. Which in turn means notebooks, pens, backpacks, and all kids of other stuff kids need. And yes, kids in LPR/DPR also go to school, attend after-school clubs, and they need all that very badly. Maybe even more than our kids.
All of that costs a lot. For many Donbass people, late August and the fall are a difficult time of the year. Because the average monthly salary is 5,000 rubles. Sometimes all these school supplies are an unaffordable luxury. It’s a luxury to buy pen holders and book sleeves…
Have you calculated how much it costs to prepare one school child for September 1?
These children are not simply children. They are children of war. They live in a different reality and for many of them colorful markers, pretty erasers are a source of joy so great that it’s hard to believe in our reality with prosciutto and i-Phones.
So Lena and Zhenya carried out “Operation Y” [a reference to a famous Soviet-era film] to collect school supplies for the people we care for. But unfortunately we were not able to collect enough for all. Especially for those families for whom we are making separate collections and the particularly needy ones–you know them all well.
We really want to help both. Last year we and you were able to collect many school kids for children whose parents are on the registry at the Lugansk Aid Center. These are foster kids, families with many children, single moms, disabled kids.
We want to help as many kids as possible!!!
So I’m calling on you to join in this effort!))) Come on board!
If you do, please label your contributions “school”.
And you must see the photo report on what we’ve bought so far.
Just look at how improbably happy they are!!!
Lena and her parents and kids went shopping and picked out everything. So the boys and girls got to pick the color of their notebooks, backpacks, pencils, paper, everything they needed.
Lenochka, you and Zhenya are totally awesome!!! It’s so good to have you with us! Thank you!

This is Vika and Alyona. It’s so unexpected to see them together on the same photo, after all they’ve never seen one another.

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Life in the Midst of War

An old friend recently wrote me a letter in which he was upset that, judging by my postings, one would think everything’s going badly in LPR. Because there are positive examples too. I could answer my readers that no, not everything is going badly. There are families whose affairs are in principle going well. Moreover, I would say there are people, everywhere, of a kind capable of surviving in any situation. And not only survive but find work or ways to make money even where it’s impossible. It’s as if they are literally a tank, they can fight to the end. But there aren’t so many of them. Since I mainly write about those who need help, my reports don’t include many positive examples. Not because they don’t exist, but because we help those who can’t help themselves. People with problems or in dire straits. Illness, loss of house, wounds. It’s single elderly, single moms with many kids, disabled.
And here’s what I wanted to say. If one were to work as an investigator, with time one starts thinking everyone around is a criminal. It’s a point of reference, a vantage point which influences one’s perception of the situation and the world as a whole. So it’s important to preserve clarity. I don’t know whether I have such clarity. What I see in LPR is, in most cases, sadness. It’s a region in a state of uncertainty where it’s nearly impossible to exist and improve one’s situation. The Republics are not recognized, formally they don’t exist, nearly all the economic ties have been interrupted, and yes, there’s fighting. People are getting by. But its possible my pessimism has to do with my vantage point, not objectivity. I don’t know.
But from what I see in shops, on the streets, and all the institutions I visit, people are for the most part surviving. Many (though not all, of course), those who could, left. I see heroic doctors, emergency first responders, utilities workers, who helped ordinary people under a rain of rockets. I see many genuine people, People with a capital P. But most of them are struggling. They have poverty wages, it’s hard to find work, and the prices in shops are like everywhere else. Many survive thanks to gardens and relatives. Possibly this is my own vantage point. Because barber shops, beauty salons, supermarkets where there are dozens of sausage brands and red fish keep on working. Sushi bars and restaurants are opening up, which apparently have a clientele? So there are consumers.

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More Aid

When the time comes to write another report on helping this or that Donbass family, I invariably freeze in front of the computer for a long time. The first two hundred such posts were full of my emotions and worries. Then they became repetitive. The emotions and worries. Tolstoy wrote that all happy families are alike, unlike the unhappy ones.
But I came to the conclusion that the range of suffering is not all that wide. There are unbelievably many stories of human suffering, but sometimes when delving into a new one, I catch myself thinking I’ve already heard it somewhere. It happened somewhere else. So how to write about it in a small piece of text without repeating oneself?
Is the pain losing its sharpness? Becoming dulled?
No question about it. It all goes in a circle, and I ever more frequently think about my own grandmothers and grandfathers who survived the war. I ever more frequently hear echoes in my own life of us all being children of war. Grandchildren of war, even though it’s long gone.
From this, the meaning of the Donbass tragedy became for me something that already happened, even though it’s expressed with different words.
But that doesn’t make it easier.

Aleksandra is a single mother of three–Tatyana, Nastya, and Lera. This is one of her daughters.

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Thank you

This is another in a series of reports on people who are under our ongoing care.
Thank you everyone who, in spite of the summer and vacations, is continuing to help the people of the Donbass. Sometimes I’m at a loss for words to express my gratitude for your trust and caring. Nearly every time people respond me with letters which ask me not to thank them. Please allow me that.
It’s very pleasant to “give thanks.” To be sure, one may consider “thank you” to be flattery, but I really want to hug you all.
And now about our people.

Lyubov Mikhailovna is the grandmother of Timur and Elisey. No parents–the mom ran off at the beginning of the war and hasn’t been heard from since. They live off grandma’s pension, there’s no other income. She is disabled due to diabetes and blood pressure problems. She can’t get child benefits since the kids officially have a mother.
To read more about this family, click on the Timur and Elisey tag at the bottom of this post.

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“Please help, they killed mom!”

Anya came under fire during the summer of ’14 when she was on the way to her dacha near Lugansk to dig up some potatoes. She lived in a five-story apartment block and hid in the cellar with broken plumbing during shelling. Shops were closed, there was no electricity or phone service. The city was in isolation. After the city was being “executed” using all manner of Ukrainian artillery, Tanya’s, her son’s Sasha’s, and her mom’s Taisiya Ivanovna’s money and food ran out. They held out as long as they could, it was dangerous to go anywhere. The dacha was about 1km from where “their”–Ukrainian–positions.
August 26 was surprisingly quiet. The woman and her son managed to dig up potatoes before the shelling started.  Actually, it wasn’t really shelling, just one shell. Its fragment cut open Anya’s belly and her entrails fell out while her 8 year old son watched. The girl was conscious the whole time. The boy screamed the whole time “please help, they killed mom!”. A guard came running in response. He collected the entrails as best he could, put them back inside, wrapped it all up with plastic, and took to the hospital. She survived and, suffering from extreme pain, she lived for another two years while constantly taking strong pain medications.


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On Top of a Volcano

Vergunka, one of Lugansk’s regions, was recently hit. It suffered a lot in 2014, and it’s right next to the line of contact. People live there as if on top of a volcano. And they know more shells can come at any moment.
You know well about Vergunka from my reports, it’s where Ira lives, whom we’ve been helping for a long time.
Ira is a single mom who was abandoned in the midst of pregnancy by her husband during the shelling of ’14. She then gave birth, then restored the house which suffered from shelling. Fixed walls, roof, without any water or electricity, and with an infant to take care of. While Ira was hiding from the shells from Lugansk (which was also shelled, but where else was she to go while pregnant?), her house was totally looted, everything was taken out down to forks and spoons.
We’ve been helping Ira with food, medications, pots and pans, clothing.
Brought a computer for her daughter, then collected money in the winter for a gas water heater. Ira has it very hard, she’s alone and has two kids. She works as a clerk in a store, 10-12 hours a day, and the older sister takes care of Vovka. The days off are spent in the garden and on housekeeping. She earns 5,000 rubles a month, which is not the worst salary given Lugansk conditions.
But now Ira begun to have health problems.

Look at how big Vovka is!

Ira has psoriasis. We brought her medications but they aren’t helping much. It’s clear it’s stress-induced, and she’s also discovered a gluten allergy and gastrointestinal atony. Drugs don’t help. Many of our friends have had similar problems which have led to surgeries. By all accounts, she needs to be in a hospital but what to do with the kids? And one can’t put this off, such problems may turn out to be serious if ignored. She needs analyses, but they cost money. She has no money, she’s afraid to lose work because someone else would instantly be hired in her place. Unfortunately, the conditions there are harsh, there’s even a waiting list of people willing to take her job. Jobs in the Republics are scarce these days (((
Ira has not asked us for help herself. We find everything after the fact, when we drop in with food parcels. She always promises to call but has never done so. “It’s awkward for me, there are probably others who need it more.” She returned nearly all the children’s clothes we brought when their kids outgrew them: “I washed them all, they are in good condition. Someone else could definitely use them”…


Our aid. Thanks to all who participate!
Please label all donations for Ira “Ira”.

If you want to join the aid effort for the people of the Donbass, please write me in person through LiveJournal, facebookV Kontakte, or email: littlehirosima@gmail.com. Paypal address: littlehirosima@gmail.com.

Lena and Roma

This is what happiness looks like. This is what a happy family looks like.
That’s what Lena’s family was like until 2014…
Lena buried Roma right in the garden, among exploding shells, tears, paralyzing fear, and incomprehension of what was happening.
August 19 was hot for Vergunka, a small, long-suffering village on the outskirts of Lugansk.


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